Academic in Bid to Help Ukraine Preserve its Heritage

Prof Nicoleta Cinpoes at Ternopil University - web
Professor Nicoleta Cinpoeş at Ternopil University in Ukraine

And while practical help for those fleeing the Country and those left behind was the immediate response, in time thoughts turned to how, as an academic, she could help the nation with its long-term plan for its future recovery. Particularly in preserving its theatrical heritage.

Nicoleta, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Worcester, has returned from a trip to Ukraine, which came at the end of an eight-month-long ULAM-NAWA Fellowship at the University of Warsaw in Poland, where she has been making strides in helping to future-proof the nation’s vital work in the humanities.

“During my Fellowship I was teaching students from Ukraine who have taken up the opportunity to complete their degrees in Poland” she said. “There was a lot of discussion about whether theatre was important in the context of a war going on and it was really moving and impressive to listen to what students had to say.

“The view was that continuing their education was really important. We talked about being activists through education and about the social engagement of theatre.”

In Ukraine, it is not just the buildings and the infrastructure that is being blown apart by the Russian invasion. The Country is also facing a destruction of its identity, heritage and culture.

At the end of her Fellowship, Professor Cinpoeş was invited to visit Ukraine by colleagues from Lviv, Ternopil and Zaporizhzhia, where she saw for herself the on-going devastation and the determination of its people to win-through.

She also visited Ivano-Frankivsk where she met with the artistic and managing director of Ivan Franco National Theatre and their current ensemble who are performing Shakespeare and other plays in bomb shelters.

Ivan Franco Theatre -web

“I saw Romeo and Juliet in the theatre bunker and an adaptation of Lesya Ukrainka's work in the theatre basement newly fitted to withstand bombs raids and shelling,” she said.

“In Ukraine, actors and artists are considered as part of the frontline - that is acknowledged by the government, because they are responsible for caring for the home-front communities and preserving the heritage of the country for the future. Productions are sold out because people need to maintain some sense of worth and normality.”

As part of her work for Ukraine, Professor Cinpoeş delivered a workshop on Shakespeare and Resistance in Ukraine at the European Shakespeare Research Association conference: Shakespeare and Change, which was held in Budapest. This led to a set of action points and the creation of four groups to continue to support Ukraine in responding to current challenges in Higher Education and particularly in relation to Humanities and Shakespeare.

“It’s really important to continue making theatre and to open the borders to Ukrainian artists and theatre makers to build awareness,” she said. “Their buildings are being destroyed and their history is in danger too. There are lots of ways in which we can help now, we don’t need to wait until the war is over. It’s crucially important to carry on.

“They are seeking to discard the Soviet-imposed ways. We can offer them exposure to other ways so they can find their own way going forwards. We can open up opportunities for them to come out and show the world what they do. We can learn from them and support them.”

Professor Cinpoeş is working to help train colleagues in how to write theatre history and supporting practitioners through the European Shakespeare Research Association.

“We are offering a suite of online training sessions,” she said. “We’re also working with them on exposure to academic writing in English, which will open new opportunities for them. They can then start to access funding grants and get work published so the world learns more about Ukraine and its theatre and culture. We would love in the future to co-author and co-edit chapters and volumes together.

“We’re also exploring how we can adapt our current MA English to accommodate an intensive, short course in critical theory and practice that will give them the grounding in English Studies so they can think about how they would teach English Literature back in Ukraine.”

Professor Cinpoeş has also been lobbying for an International Shakespeare Festival in Ukraine, and, following discussions with other festivals directors and meetings with the Director of the European Shakespeare Festivals Network in Gdansk, said: “I’m very excited that we will have a festival in Ukraine. We managed to secure the dates and the venue: the first Shakespeare Festival in Ukraine will take place in Ivano Frankivsk in June 2024. (

“There are 12 Shakespeare Festivals across Europe currently active and we’re trying to ensure each one will also invite a Ukrainian company to come and perform.”

She added: “This trip has really helped to inform my practice. I know more now about how to listen to what is needed and what’s the need for support. And here in Europe we can help with that now.”